A Few Thoughts On The Whole "What If You Go To Hell?" Scenario

We have all had that conversation with friends, family, and even in our own minds have pondered the validity of the "What if you go to Hell?" scenario.

Images of devils, demons, exposed human flesh to flame, faces twisted in torturous poses, evil looking imps in observant reveries of delight. The overall themes being rejection, exile, physically unbearable pain, retribution, and guilt. Through many belief systems, Hell is a common thread that most agree upon.

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As an atheist, I really do not see the concept of Hell as anything more than a flawed tool in the arsenal of the religious that relies on a couple of very subjective assumptions about humanity in general, and when it comes up in discussion, I usually have some type of smart sarcastic reply to answer the "What if". Lines like,"Well, if I am in Hell, then Dahmer can't eat my brains while I sleep, and I certainly will be lucky to miss Hitler's company.", or "There are questions I have wondered about for years, and to have an eternity to speak with Wilde, Nietzsche, and Plato sounds exciting."

I am very much more serious than this when actually discussing the notion of Hell amongst those who seriously wonder what my rationale is. When approached with a grave concern for my eternal soul, or a philosophical discussion regarding Hell, I do not polish up quirky one liners and zingers to engage in this type of thought. It's inappropriate. I've seen several postings now by several blog owners about Hell, some like the Friendly Atheist, just wonder what everyone's thoughts are, humorous or not. Or you have bloggers like the Atheist Apologist who looks at how talking about Hell really is talking about the existence of God. It's a fascinating topic no matter the perspective.

So, without further adieu, here are my thoughts on Hell. And by the way, I'm taking it from the perspective that it were real, completely playing Devil's advocate... hahah.. I see what I did there.

The question of Hell, and what if I end up there is not a very pleasant thought. In all seriousness, Hell would be beyond imagining one of the worst experiences ever brought upon humankind. In fact, on some levels, before ever arriving there, the mere shadow of it being hung over one's head can be devastating. The specter of Hell is an insidious one in culture and relationships. Hell, by definition is a separation from love, reward, acknowledgement. To understand Hell, you have to examine Heaven. In the Christian cultures, you are transported to a magnificent place where you have eyes for no one but God. You worship him in appreciative and mutual love for all He has provided you. A true joining of creation with its creator. It also made abundantly clear in several passages within the Bible that the relationships you had on the material Earth are pretty much dissolved. Everyone loves everyone (not sexually mind you). Everyone happily praises the creator. Bodies are no longer their earthly form, damage no longer present, a renewed form. A form of what? We do not know, but scripture does talk about us holding palms within our hands at His throne, so I know we at least have some assemblage of fingers and hands...which sounds awfully fleshly for what Jesus describes as our being "like angels in heaven."

Okay, I'm not being fair on that last little quote. I agree, Jesus was referring to our relationship with God, and that we would be like angels in Heaven. That doesn't sound good, does it? To be angelic is to be a further servant. Heaven, while amazing and wonderful, will still be a servitude, but we will be too entranced to care; our individuality is gone. Kind of sounds like the euphoria one experiences at a rock concert, doesn't it? Just imagine that rock concert going on FOREVER.

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In fact, in Revelations, there is a pretty crystal clear description of the mentality of Heaven:

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelations 21:4

This is a very telling psychology of man being played out in this verse. We associate mourning, crying, and pain as negative things, but the rational person also realizes that without these negative experiences we couldn't develop appreciation for other more positive things, like change for example. Heaven's elimination of man's very naive perception of negative concepts, brings an end to change. It brings evolution of who we are to a full stop. Heaven says this is God's limit. Yes, we have found a limit within Heaven's ethereal plane. Disturbing isn't it?

Now, let's look at the other pole of doctrine. The landscape of all the aborted negativity. Hell. Here we can expect torments of varying levels. We can expect separation from those we love. We can expect madness, torture, and depression of being rejected. What I didn't expect was that we will keep our individuality. Our earthly desires, passions, hates, loves, motivation, and instincts to desperately survive will remain intact. Our mortal psyche is not limited.

I think this sums up my thoughts on what Hell would be like here: In Jacob's Ladder, Louis, the main character's friend, quotes Meister Eckhart: "You know what he [Eckhart] said? The only thing that burns in Hell is the part of you that won't let go of your life; your memories, your attachments. They burn 'em all away. But they're not punishing you, he said. They're freeing your soul. ... If you're frightened of dying and holding on, you'll see devils tearing your life away. But if you've made your peace then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the Earth". I agree with the first sentence. After that, it doesn't make much sense since damnation is eternal. You are not being freed. If the bad is completely burned away, why would you not be released? You are going to be thankful they rid you of your evil and THEN being thankful for being punished for a crime you understand you had already been punished so much in order to forget? Logic out the window.

Individuality will still be intact while in Hell. So, I will retain my individuality. While it might be an eternal torment, and a fiery burning one at that, to know I will be able to remember everything from my life - good and bad - sounds like a better outcome than the hard drive restructuring the ones up in Heaven will receive; only having eyes fro their creator. The pain and tears I would be forced to endure while being burned will not temper the sweet tasting wine of my humanity of the love and experiences I was fortunate enough to have been a part of. Therefore, Hell is not impossible to overcome. Just one more flaw in religion's doctrine that demonizes the very traits of a mankind that effects change in humanity. A doctrine that demonstrates an incredible misunderstanding of the benefit of these so called "sins" while teaching the ultimate reward is to reach a state of a hive driven permanent constant.

I will take the remembrances, and like the sulfur riddled lakes of Hell's lava pools, I will wash their raw beauty over my mind, relishing every failure and latter triumph that made me who I was.

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Comment by Joan Denoo on August 20, 2014 at 9:11am

What if there is no hell or heaven or god or any of the hokus pokus poured into our minds by those who don't know better, or who benefit by having people dependent on them, or who remain quiet while charlatans fleece us in the name of religion? 

Luis Russell And His Orchestra - Hokus Pokus

Comment by Future on August 20, 2014 at 8:05am
A consciousness that exists eternally would be hell period, regardless of whether it is in a lake of fire or a fluffy white cloud. It's eternity - not 100 years, not 100,000 years, not 100,000,000,000,000 years, it's eternity! At some point the only thing that will be appealing is to cease to exist entirely, or have the opportunity to start over from scratch.
Comment by Bluegrass Skeptic on August 20, 2014 at 5:10am

I agree completely Michael. I too have always felt this "soul"  is to do with our subconcious.

The loss of our autonomy when we die is a frightening thought to many people.  I try to play Devil's advocate and use their rationale about Heaven and Hell when discussing the concept and show them how flawed their parameters are.

Comment by Michael Penn on August 20, 2014 at 12:14am

Some people believe of heaven and clouds as you say, and they get angry when you point out to them that this is ridiculous. How does everyone get from earth to heaven and back? Angels were said to do it often and there is no visible means of travel, not even for Jesus. We might find that earth is the Sanitarium that you speak of.

As early as 1948 Finis Jennings Dake taught that heaven was another planet. That settled it for me in my theist days, but how could this be? God and everybody in heaven would have to be subject to the laws that govern us all here on earth right now. Along came the Internet and the information age and apologists saw the problem. They put god in another dimension outside of space and time. What else could they do? There was nowhere else to go. Other planets may have other physical laws but while on earth you operate under our laws.

Maybe this is why the all powerful god does nothing here. He is not able. That's because he does not exist. Therefore neither does heaven, or hell, or anything else in that ancient book.

Comment by kathy: ky on August 19, 2014 at 11:54pm
I tell my family l can't go to hell cause I don't believe in it. It's their hell and heaven and they can keep them both.
Dead is dead. As if we never were. Only the DNA left behind in family members lives on.

We are stardust.
Comment by Michael Penn on August 19, 2014 at 11:28pm

OK. People speak of your "soul" going to hell. It's not your body. I contend that the ancient belief that you "have a soul" comes from the fact that there are 2 of you -- the waking you and the sleeping you. Since the mind is always working and does not really sleep, people dream and cannot separate one state from the other. This caused a problem for ancient man and even some today. Paul said in the New Pesterment "whether in the body or out of the body I could not tell" about some of his "visions." (Why would anyone trust him? He didn't have  clue.)

This two states of man has caused problems for ages with many thinking you have or possess a soul. When the bible speaks of your soul it means you. The total essence of you, not some invisible part of you. Hard to tell this to anyone who doesn't understand their very vivid dream. They just know it was real.

So, here we are "going to hell" and our soul will be tortured there forever according to the degree of our sins. How will this "soul" feel anything without the brain and body? How would it feel any pain? It's impossible. Yes, you feel things in the dream state but you have went nowhere. Nothing has left the body. Death is different. When the brain shuts down everything else does also. Death is permanent and everything comes to and end. No pain, no nothing. For the dead it is like it was before they were born.

This is why I proudly say I am an atheist who is not afraid of burning in hell forever. What if I am wrong? Wrong about what? Your superstition.

Comment by Bluegrass Skeptic on August 19, 2014 at 10:13pm
I agree, but I'm looking at the average view at Hell here and its flaws. Overall though, I am like you two, as well. Once dead, that's it. Poof!
Comment by Michael Penn on August 19, 2014 at 8:34pm

I agree with Freethinker. You die and you are dead. It's all the same as before you were ever born. No pain, no nothing.

But  for a price I can pray you out of purgatory. LOL



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